This installment is comprised of Chapter 4 of The Oligrach©. To read the previous excerpts, click on "1-Trust,"
“2-Comandante,” “3-Maria,” “4-Fernando,” and “5-Mother’s Day,” in the Menu. In the previous excerpt, we saw William arriving to the Mother’s Day reunion. His grandfather and aunts
and uncles were there and all were friendly. He was especially touched by his Aunt Isabel and her husband Humberto. William meets Oscar, his army colonel uncle and Fabio, the lawyer and former member of government. He hears of his Aunt Dolores, a nun and the
“family saint,” Fernando calls her. William asks his grandfather about the patient he had in Washington, a Freddy Solano.
flout and a Floozy"
Fernando remained rooted to the spot William left him in for several seconds, then returned to his chair. Memories
of his other life in Washington with Consuela and Freddy flooded him. Freddy, Fernando thought, Freddy. It had been several years since he had seen Freddy and his mother, but he remembered them as he remembered all of his thirties, and his
forties and fifties. "Freddy" should have been Fernando Zelaya Echevarria.
Washington, D.C. 1936-1940
Fernando first saw Consuela at a casual party during a Johns-Hopkins class reunion in 1936. She came with a classmate whom he did not recognize, but who he suddenly
and desperately desired to know. Her thick, short hair radiated a strawberry-blondness from her Galician mother. She wore a sweater over a thin chemise and her well-formed breasts filled it and his imagination. Consuela was modern, right down to her
bobby sox and saddle oxfords. But what took his attention were her slightly-too-wide-to-be-perfect hips. They undulated beneath her knee length pleated skirt when she jitter-bugged and he could think of nothing but climbing into that saddle and staying there
for as long as he could imagine.
Which was almost longer than he could stand. He was prepared to force an introduction if needed. His unrelenting gaze
finally caught her eye and she smiled at him. She looked back to her companions and then stepped out of the circle where she held court.
met?” she said. “I’m thirsty. Would you be so kind?”
He returned with drinks for them both and she pointed to a pair of empty
Spanish was pure Castilian, lisps and all. It washed over him like rose scented water. Within minutes, and for the first time in his life, the thirty-five year old married man with children, loved someone else as much as himself.
His pursuit was neither difficult nor long. At times he did wonder who was chasing whom. She was modern and simply ignored the fact of his wife. Consuela worked for a publisher as an
editor and seemed hell-bent on enjoying what came her way. She was ambitious and in 1934 she had fought her managing editor and a larger New York publisher to put Gertrude Stein under contract. She said that she was surprised when her father was the only friend
who really understood her remorse at losing this particular author.
Consuela introduced Fernando to her father within a month after they began dating.
The older man’s curmudgeonness led to Fernando's earliest assessment as, "quaint." Don Diego was the half-Basque, former political science professor, and current Ambassador of the soon-to-be-former, República Española.
Diplomat or no, in personal relationships, he was not one to parse opinion. He was, "a man of the world," as they say, and if it crossed his mind to fault his daughter for consorting
with a married man, he said nothing. "Married," did not bother him. "Fascist," was altogether another matter.
The Civil War's progress, not good for the
Republic from the outset, made the ambassador testy. On Guatemala he pronounced that there were, "some educated people in the country," then added, "with a feudal mindset." Any educated person in particular? Fernando thought and let the slight pass.
Talk about politics became dangerous territory.
"Testy," changed dramatically in late 1940. The Republic had fallen, and now his daughter also. The
Don was in no mood when Fernando asked him if he could marry the pregnant Consuela.
Don Diego Echevarria would not hear of it, even to spare his daughter
disgrace. That Fernando would sacrifice, divorce his wife, even move to the United States had no effect on the Don. The frustrated suitor pressed on the certain disgrace inherent in the problem but Don Diego became combative.
"You and your class are the Fascists of the Western hemisphere."
“You are sure it’s not because my mother was Jewish?” Under attack, Fernando was not above using debater’s tactics.
Don Diego squinted at him in triumph, “You are not only a fascist, you are a stupid fascist. You and your ilk are like the Catholic Spaniards. The Basques, the Jews, Moros…Catalans,” he totted his list, “they had
three options, be like us, be gone, or be dead. It’s the same option you give the Indigenous. You are so tied up in your incestuous underwear you don’t even know what I’m talking about.”
“You’ve never been to Guatemala. You have no idea what stone-age indios are like.”
“You say ‘Indio’ the way Americans say ‘Nigger.’ Go back and finish your conquest. You are worst than the Yankees.” He waved a thoroughly confused and pissed off Fernando out the door.
So, Fernando thought, the baby has no father. How in Hades did I get hooked to a bunch of anarchist-Republicans. I hope Franco cleans that rat's nest out.
Consuela had substituted for her mother
during her final illness. Not being the “wife of the Ambassador,” enabled her to act with her natural panache and the father-daughter combo became sought after even for staid parties. As Fernando’s consort she was rarely nonplussed by the
gossip. Her only concern was for her father.
“Gossips are like Fascist
bomber pilots,” she said, “collateral damage is not their concern.”
"He had his chance, he still has it. He would rather
disgrace you and himself." Fernando stopped himself but he could feel his gore rising.
"He has his principles Fernando, you of all people should realize
he has his limits."
"Are you saying you love me because I'm like your father?" The thought enraged him; he turned to the door slamming the heel of his
hand into the jam. The smack receded into a shocked silence.
"It is best you understand that I have my limits too." The message delivered itself in slow
cadence, "The baby and I will be fine."
They glared at each other. The idea that she might raise their child without him sifted through a deep layer of
anger as it settled, waffling, leaf-like on its way to his center. It came to rest, floating on a reservoir of hurt he didn't know was there. He stood looking away, forcing himself to breathe, forcing his shoulders down, his hands to unclench. Surrender was
required and he knew that she, like the Don, would not.
"I'm sorry." The silence continued for a long moment; he heard her take a ragged breath.
"Thank you, my love. Sometimes we scare me. I love you more than I love the father of my child." He looked at her wondering what she meant.
"What about you?" she said. "You have some risk...no?"
“Guatemala may as
well be the other side of the universe. Wives are more tolerant than here.” He glanced at her and saw she did not react. “You take the brunt of it."
“You mean the part about being a flout, and a floozy," she smiled at him.
He knew she reveled in the consequences of being a “free
woman,” as she called it, but ‘floozy,’ evoked an inkling of vulnerability as well.
“My company could care
less about an affair.”
She turned from him with the, “affair,” and he knew he had crossed another kind of line. So, he thought,
she does love me. Fernando felt a wave of gratitude and moved to her from behind, pushing his face into her neck, “I’m sorry darling, that was thoughtless. I love you,” he hesitated thinking of what words might be more convincing.
Finally he said hoarsely, “I love only you.” It came from a part of Fernando’s heart newly available and he never again, neither publicly nor privately, wavered from the truth of it.
For thirty years Fernando arranged meetings in Washington two or three times a year. Often
they lasted a full month. It wasn’t difficult, as the head of the Guatemalan and Honduran operations of World Fruit. His work had political and public relations aspects and the Guatemalan Ambassador treated him as a visiting dignitary who could be called
upon for semi-official duties like testifying before Congress. His Congressional friends, whose campaigns benefited from a relationship with World Fruit, saw that he became an expert before the State and Agriculture Departments.